View Full Version : Is there a down-side to too much bullet?

August 10, 2006, 10:46 AM
If it's not obvious, I'm new to hunting. I've been talking to people when ever I get the chance, trying to gather info before the fall. I plan on taking a "Hunter's Safety Class" before I go, but in the mean time I keep asking questions.

The type of hunting I'd do on my first time out would be deer in thick mountain brush. The buddy who's taking me says 99% of the shots would be 25 feet to 50 yards tops. I have a S&W .357magnum w/6" barrel and a 4x scope that he said would be perfect. He might use his SKS. The local deer are not very large, as deer go. I'm not interested in using a handgun on my first hunt, but that's one end of the spectrum in terms of caliber advice I'm getting.

Talking to another hunter, I hear a story about an Elk hit with some big magnum round. The Elk's shoulder was shattered, and the bullet went through the heart and both lungs -- and on three legs without vital organs it ran/stumbled for 200 yards before it dropped... His advice is use the biggest caliber you can and have as clean a kill as possible.

So, to get to my question. I'd rather risk "overkill" than "underkill". Is there any downside to using a larger caliber than is necessary? Other than recoil, noise, and perhaps expensive bullets?

I was considering getting a CZ 527 in 7.62x39, comparable to 30-30 as I understand it, and a round I already "stock". Now I'm thinking I should just go for a .308 and be done with it.

Thanks for the info.

charlie in md
August 10, 2006, 11:09 AM
Both the 7.62x39 and the .308 will work. It doesn't matter what caliber is used, you cannot absolutely guarantee that the animal will simply collapse on the spot. This is why tracking skills are just as important as shooting skills.

The .308 is probably more "versatile" overall.

Whichever you choose, make sure it is sighted in;

- know where the vitals are on the animal.

- If it does run after the shot, don't panic. Memorize where it was when you shot, and where you last saw it. Be patient and wait a bit. If you check and find blood, mark it with toilet paper. You can make a visible trail using the TP which will help guide you. Don't be surprised if the animal goes over 100+ yards with a shot through the boiler room.

Wild Bill Bucks
August 10, 2006, 11:25 AM
Lots of guys go for the vitals, and in most circumstances, even at 50 yards will, most certainly turn in to a tracking situation. If given a broadside shot, on a standing animal, I will always take a neck shot, as this will leave them laying in their own footsteps, with a .308 or 30-30 at fifty yards. Shot placement is THE most important aspect of shooting, so practice practice practice.

August 10, 2006, 11:28 AM
The 308 would be perfect. And, as said, practice. But also, if the deer doesn't go down at the shot, Keep shooting. Don't admire your shot, try to put the deer down.

August 10, 2006, 11:28 AM
If this is your first hunt, I'd probably recommend a rifle. Either the 7.62x39 or the 308 Win will work very well for the range you describe. Make sure you match the bullet to the game. Stay away from FMJ's and get a suitable soft point.

For the 308 Win, most standard 150 grain soft points will be fine. No matter the caliber you choose, shot placement is king! Practice with your chosen combination and use that for your hunt. Good advice on the sighting in. You have to know where its going to hit and be comfortable with it. Whether you choose your pistol or go to a rifle, I recommend practicing on a paper plate or whatever with a 4 inch circle drawn on it. Your max range will be the distance you can keep all your shots within that circle.

The kill zone on a deer is a bit larger, but trust me, if you are going to be walking the woods, you're going to be bit tired and the shot may be a quick one. Combine that with the energy release you'll have when Mr Bucky shows out of nowhere, you'll find the amount and kind of practicing you do will pay off.

john in jax
August 10, 2006, 11:41 AM
Having one drop in it's tracks is very rare, unless you can pull off a head or spine shot. The trick is to take your time and make a good lethal shot, then wait QUIETLY for +/- 30min. before making any racket that might spook the deer. Usually the deer/hog will wander off a little ways and lay down and die - - easy to track and find. But if spooked they can easily manage to run a long way through thick cover you can barely make it through.

In rifles I'd choose the .308 over the 7.62x39. The .308 shoots flatter, has more power, and will take just about any game in the U.S. While the 7.62x39 is a great brush round the .308 is "more lethal" at +/-50 yards and allows you to reach out to 200 yards if needed, it is much more versitile than a 7.62x39.

Your .357 should work fine in close. Just my oppinon, but I prefer a cast core or jacketed soft point (JSP) bullet over any kind of hollow point for hunting. Winchester makes a couple:
and Federal has a 180 cast core that should preform very well.

August 10, 2006, 12:17 PM
I'd go with the .308 too. It'll have a larger selection of hunting bullets, allow longer range shots (if you're up to it), and hunting ammo in 7.62x39 isn't going to be any cheaper.

About bullet weights, I've heard (not experienced firsthand) that, with a given caliber, using a heavier bullet will reduce meat damage because of the decreased velocity. Maybe someone who's played around with different bullet weights can shed some light on this idea.

August 10, 2006, 03:44 PM
Thanks for all of the suggestions. Looks like the .308 is the way to go.

August 10, 2006, 03:58 PM
Nico-that has been my experience with 270 Win, 30-30 and 308. The heavier weight bullets will carry energy out a little farther, and they are constucted for deeper penetration, all else being equal.

My hunting buddy got kind of grossed out when I jumped a white tail at 80 yards and shot it in the side of the head. One of the few times I was using factory ammo-winchester white box with 150 grain softpoints. Blew the off side of the deer's head clean off! I take great caution in those kinds of shots, as it can wound but not kill if you are a bit off. One thing about it though-if the brain pan is empty, they aren't going anywhere!

August 10, 2006, 04:10 PM
For the .357, I use a 110 gr. Jacketed hollow point. Practice a lot. If you buy a rifle, use a good soft point. You don't necessarily need a heavy bullet, but not the lightest either. Look at ballistics charts and see which one seems to be optimum. i.e. trajectory. never mind muzzle velocity, you are not shooting at point blank.

August 10, 2006, 04:54 PM
I feel that a 110gr bullet is far to light for deer. Look for a round designed for deer-sized game. You'll probably find that they are closer to 180gr than 110gr.

August 10, 2006, 05:04 PM
I feel that a 110gr bullet is far to light for deer. Look for a round designed for deer-sized game. You'll probably find that they are closer to 180gr than 110gr.
not necessarily. 270win in 130gr is one of the most popular rounds for deer and is more than adequate.

August 10, 2006, 05:47 PM
The .357mag ammo I have on hand is 158gr soft point. The scope is dialed in at 50 yards, and it's very accurate at that range -- but FOR ME this gun absolutely requires something very steady to lean on. Off-hand with zero support or something to brace against, at any distance over 25 yards or so I'm not "hunting accurate" with this gun. Which is why I would rather use a rifle this first time out. Honestly with a rifle the longest shot I would take (at this point) without some support would be about 50 yards. I'm practicing shooting while leaning on one knee, and bracing against vertical objects (like tree trunks), but I know my current limitations. My personal goal is to know I'm capable of a 3" group with any given distance/stance/gun combination before I'd hunt with it.

The only other option I currently own - and what I've been practicing with - is a Mosin Nagan M44 I sporterized. It's scoped and accurate enough, from a bench I managed a 2" group @100 yards. It was a fun project as an attempt at an inexpensive deer gun, but, it still has its inherent limitations: long trigger pull, awkward safety, and most disconcerting to me is a difficult stiff bolt that I can't operate effectively while the gun is shouldered. With 180gr SP, it's got some serious kick to it. I'll keep practicing with it though, while I save up for a Rem. Model Seven SS/.308. Who knows, if I find with practice I can become competent with the M44, I may just use it this first time out.

Death from Afar
August 10, 2006, 05:54 PM
To go back to the original question, lets put it like this. Why dont we use .373H&H for everything? Well, with more than enough gun we can expect excessive recoil, which will result in flinch and loss of accuracy, we can expect massive muzzle blast and flash which is not conducive for good hunting and they are more expensive to shoot.

I totally agree with a .308.

August 10, 2006, 06:09 PM
To go back to the original question, lets put it like this. Why dont we use .373H&H for everything? Well, with more than enough gun we can expect excessive recoil, which will result in flinch and loss of accuracy, we can expect massive muzzle blast and flash which is not conducive for good hunting and they are more expensive to shoot.
Thanks Death from Afar, that's what I was originally wondering about. I just didn't know if in hunting situations, there are specific reasons for not using large loads -- comparable for instance to the issues of "over-penetration" when choosing HD ammo. I was liking the idea of the CZ 527 because after a few extended range sessions with my M44, something milder that would do the job just as well was sounding appealing. But since for now I can probably only swing one rifle purchase, I think the .308 will be more versatile, and I'll just get used to it.

charlie in md
August 10, 2006, 06:30 PM
I just checked remington's site. They make a managed recoil load for the .308
(125 gr soft point)

this might be something you want to try.:)

August 10, 2006, 07:26 PM
Thanks for the heads-up Charlie. I found that MidwayUSA has Federal "low recoil" 170gr .308.

Wow, $1 per round, I've never gone there before.

August 10, 2006, 08:53 PM
not necessarily. 270win in 130gr is one of the most popular rounds for deer and is more than adequate.

Let me qualify that: In .357mag 110gr is, I feel, to light for hunting deer. In a higher velocity rifle, you can use lighter bullets.

Elmer Keith was a proponent of big/slow bullets, and I'm not one to argue.

August 11, 2006, 11:02 AM
Have you seen what a 110 gr. hollow point bullet does to deer? I wouldn't want to get hit with one. You are talking close shots, less than 50 yds. When handgun hunting, you are looking for maximum tissue damage, not necesarily a pass through, allthough the 3 deer I killed with this round did get pass throughs. Bullet fragmentation/bone fragmentation is key. He mentioned the deer were small, so I'm guessing he is talking about deer around 110lbs or less. I wouldn't want to get hit with this round.:eek:

August 11, 2006, 11:08 AM
The simple answer would be No, not in terms of killing power - generally the wider the bullet the better, and the heavier the bullet the better, without regard to velocity. Velocity is not always better - it usually is up to a point and then you get diminishing returns, or worse, reduced bullet performance. But a bigger, heavier bullet is almost always better, if not always better, in making quick kills, all other things being equal.

The more complicated answer is yes, all things are a tradeoff. The tradeoff is (1) more meat damage from the shock/hole of the bigger bullet, (2) more recoil, (3) more noise & muzzle blast, and (4) more ammo expense typically. That's why the most popular calibers represent such a good compromise - a sweet spot between the tradeoffs - calibers like .270, .30-06, etc. There's a good reason they are popular.

Wild Bill Bucks
August 11, 2006, 11:21 AM
Dead deer on the side of the road is proof positive that slower and heavier works.:D

FF, I live real close to the brewery at Krebs,(home of the best Italian food outside of Italy)

Does your brother get around Krebs much, or stay mainly in OKC?

August 14, 2006, 06:09 PM
Hey Wild Bill, I don't think my brother has actually gone down to the "Choc" beer brewery in Krebs, but that IS where they make his beer brand. We're both here in OKC, and that is one of only 2 breweries in the state, in my understanding, due to our jacked-up restrictive alcohol laws. I can't wait to get down there to try some of that great Italian food - which place should I try and eat at first when I come down? I REALLY can't wait until I draw into the McAlester AAP traditional bow hunt. I bought a PSE recurve couple days ago on the hopes that I will draw in one of these years soon! I keep saying I'm gonna go to the Gaines Creek area for hogs, but haven't yet. You got the scoop on where to go in Gaines creek to find the hogs?

August 14, 2006, 07:20 PM
Is there a down-side to too much bullet?
Other than more felt recoil... no...

It is the construction of the bullet that makes it retain original weight... so there is noe meat damage with good retention...

Remember the old timers commonly used 50 caliber muzzle loaders and the meat was precious to them...

Of course they placed their shots quite well so the point may be moot...
But, the .50's didn't explode the head either... ;)

Many elk hunters use large bores like .458's and such... These are limited to a couple hundred yards... but, they anchor the bulls pooty good! :D

Wild Bill Bucks
August 15, 2006, 09:49 AM
Choc Beer company , is right down the road from my business, Prichards own it,. They run a great eating place called Pete's Place, next time your in town go there.

Gaines creek has hogs all up and down it, but are continually moving, from water hole to water hole.(Rain been pretty scarce here lately) Best bet is to find holes with wollows in it and set up.

The bow hunt at the base is pretty wild. They take the string from your bow when you get there, and label it. When they take you out to your area in the morning, they give it back to you. You have a designated hunting area, so you can't stalk much. Never tried it myself, but they have a pretty good success rate. They have lots of deer on the base. Hope you get a big-un.:D

August 20, 2006, 11:02 PM
This is a huge can of worms with all hunters.

Many seem to think that a very light, very frangible bullet like the 110 grain HP out of the .357 mag is just the ticket, but he has never hit the shoulder or tried to run a bullet up to the vitals while looking at a 3/4 away shot. The .357 is the very bottom, like the .223 in the having enough horsepower for deer. yes it will work. most of the time. But I have seen deer shot with soft 140 speer HP's that just blew all the meat off the shoulder and left the deer in agony but still running. I saw a LEO try 4 125 grain silvertips to put down a struggling road hit deer. Not one of them seemed to reach the needed areas to HUMANELY kill the deer.

That same .357 loaded with 158 softpoints would have made it much better for killing game. A .357 carbine loaded with 158's or 180's makes a darn fine brush hunting gun. light, fast handling and with enough penetration to punch thru when shot at a bad angle, the work fine up close.

The 30-30 or 35 remington lever makes a great gun for this type of hunting, but you are practiacally limited to about 150 yards. If you are hunting deep woods, with no logging clear cuts or roads or powerlines to sit on, they work just fine and have killed millions of deer. if you are hunting deep woods but are going to have that chance at the clear cut shot or the powerline shot, then consider moving up to a 7-08 257 308 class of cartridge.

Also be aware of the fact very very few deer drop dead at the shot. Almost all run a little ways. I have had them run a half mile with one lung still laying on the ground where it was shot out of the side of the deer. I have had them run 200 yards straight up hill into a thicket when the bullet has cut the heart and lungs right off at the aorta and pulmonary artery. If you are hunting really thick woods, having a bigger heavier bullet that just plows on thru and out the other side does make trailing them a lot easier, blood drains faster when you punch a hole and a vent into the deer. I have an uncle who always hunting the really really thick stuff of the finger lakes region of NYS and in Penn. He always used the .35 remington because the 200 grainers always left the body. two holes, twice as much blood. He claimed to have never lost a deer he shot with that gun. If you look around now, you can probably find a nice marlin or winchester 94 for not a lot of money right now. I was just looking at a Marlin 336 A rifle at the shop for $175 that has the longer barrel but it is a nice gun. Add a peep sight or a 1-4 x scope and that is all you should need.

August 21, 2006, 07:15 AM
Another downside to too big a caliber is a much larger weapon. The model 7 in .308 that you mentioned is, IMO, one of the finest deer rifles you can get. It's a light, handy package, good for close range shots in the brush, but it certainly has enough power and accuracy to take 300+ yard shots. I'd put a low powered variable scope on it, a 1x4 or 2x7, and you'll be set for anything you're liable to run into in the lower 48. If you can find a gunsmith who'll work on it, the stock remington trigger can be turned into something very nice . There's no need to buy a timney, but you will want to get the stock trigger adjusted. I usually set mine to 3lbs and don't mess with the creep or over-travel, but get a gunsmith to do it for you.

I have a .35 remington, also. Like guntotin_fool said, it makes a great gun for the type of hunting you describe, but I think you'll find the model 7 to be more versatile. You'll really appreciate the model 7 after a day of toting it up and down a mountain. I use 150gr winchester power points. Cheap, accurate and the recoil is very manageable in a light carbine.

Handgun hunting has it's own allure, too. I use a .44 mag, most of the time, but a .357 is adequate within it's limitations. I've taken a couple with a model 19 with a 4" barrel. If you have to do lots of climbing, you might want to consider it, again. At the short ranges you should use a .357 at, you really don't need a scope. I've played with one on several revolvers but I always end up going back to iron sights. I've found that offhand shots are much easier to make without a scope.

Whatever rifle you end up with, get a good shooting sling and practice using it. You'll be suprised at how much it will improve your accuracy from field positions.

Good Luck and Have Fun

P.S. Hopefully, you'll have some pictures to post soon. :D

Art Eatman
August 21, 2006, 12:12 PM
All in all, pistols are pipsqueaks as hunting guns (compared to most hunting rifles), until you get up into hot .44 Maggie or Casull-like stuff. That's why most pistol-hunters use the heavier bullets; better penetration.

From a bunch of years of listening and reading from those who commonly hunt with pistols, the 158-grain weight of bullet is quite normal for the .357.


August 24, 2006, 03:27 PM
I still like my 110 gr hp for deer. BUT keep in mind, (and context) that when I hunt w/ a pistol, I'm not that good a shot at long distances, + the deer where I hunt are small. Would I use that round in Iowa if it were legal? No. Would I use it where I hunt yes. The Max range I shoot at a deer w/ my gun is 40 yds tops. The last deer I shot was at 13 yds out of my bow blind. It's all relative. However, to me the if I were not looking for sport, and looking for the best round, I'd say a 7mm rem mag, and the others in the 277-308 cals. :cool:

I guess I need to shoot another one this fall with it and show some pics. Blows the crap out of the shoulder blade. Makes the eyeballs pop out if you shoot em square in the head...:eek: yeah, it really looks like that. (110 gr JHP.)

August 27, 2006, 10:28 PM
Well, I'm going to go the other way. My two hunting calibers are 375 H&H, and, 30-06.

If you hand load, the cost factor advantage of the 30-06, .308, become much less. I'd try and find what caliber is going to give me an expanded bullet, that leaves two big holes, through the size game I'm after. 375 is not known for a tremendous amount of meat damage, but, it has killed everything on the planet. At your ranges, you could look in to 45's. I'm going to go from 375 to 458, simply because I like large holes in things I shoot. Given the right bullet, you can
have a long range 450 Watts, or, a short range stopper.
There is a well documented effect that 500 grain bullets just tend to numb things, where lighter bullets don't.

With a good reloading setup, you can go mild to wild, with the bigger calibers.

However, no one makes mil surplus ammo, like the 308, or 30-06, and, you do have to love reloading to do it.

Heck, for the size deer your talking about, you could probably use a 223, with the right bullets...


August 30, 2006, 12:16 AM
I'm not really into big game hunting because I am a cry baby when it comes to cold weather and walking around all day and stalking an animal. I used to think that the bigger the bullet the better, but after reading stories where too big of a bullet was used and the internal shock from the bullet would tear up and waste the meat. I would like to get into deer hunting and the current deer rifle I have is a Remington 700 chambered in .338 ultramag and even though I can handle the recoil, I would like something less powerful so when I am not hunting I can shoot it all day without the pain. I am thinking of a .308 or .30-06. I think those are the most versetile deer cartridges.

Art Eatman
August 30, 2006, 09:56 AM
Internal shock? The only meat inside the ribcage are the inner tenderloins, lying along the rearward part of the spine.

Those loins, the backstraps and the hams are the most desirable parts. Next are the shoulders--but those have a comparatively small amount of meat and it's a bit tougher. Last is the neck, and that's pretty tough stuff. Good for deerburger and chili meat, mostly.

A shot that ruins meat, IMO, is a bad hit. (I'll omit the issues of shooting a running buck.) Why would you shoot a buck in the butt? Or the spine?

Larger and heavier bullets are far less likely to expand greatly or to blow up. Me, I just don't particularly care for the recoil. (shrug)

Whether .308 or .30-'06, you drive a halfway-decent 150-grain bullet at around 2,800 ft/sec muzzle velocity and you can cleanly kill any deer in North America--and out to 400 yards or so if you're a competent shooter.


August 30, 2006, 10:08 AM
A shot that ruins meat, IMO, is a bad hit. (I'll omit the issues of shooting a running buck.) Why would you shoot a buck in the butt? Or the spine?

Three or four seasons ago, I was at a tavern with a few hunting friends after a days hunt. We were discussing the next days tactics over a big juicy burger and spirits. This drunk fellow over-heard our conversations, and thought it a good idea to join in.

He proceeded to tell us how he shot a doe that was walking directly away from him about 75-100yds away. He shot it right in the butt (I'll omit his description of the shot placement). He was pretty proud of the damage it did, giggling with glee when he described how the work was "darn near done" when he found the carcass.

When asked how much meat was ruined he said most of it was ruined besides the kneck. He didn't keep anything it was too messy he said.

We told the idiot to get lost.

I find too many hunters like this. Wasteful. Out to kill for fun.

August 30, 2006, 01:47 PM
I find the issue of meat damage comes more from velocity than it does from bullet diameter or weight. We had a guy hunt with us two season ago who was using 7mm 140 grainers in Nosler Partitions, nearly perfect deer bullets by most estimations. When I was there helping his break down the carcass a couple of days later, I was amazed that the bullet which had hit just the back of the front leg(tricep?) area and penetrated the ribcage and exitted thru the far shoulder, had just turned almost the whole ribcage to bloodshot. What happened?

We got very little meat out of the front of that deer. He was shooting a 7mm weatherby Mag loaded to about 3,400 Fps. On the same hunt, using a 250 grain soft point, my nephew shot a buck with a .35 whelen using a very moderate load of 49 grains of 4320, (maybe 2200 fps) shot a deer nearly the same way, and we had very very little waste. The same year, my daughter shooting a 6.5 swede shooting a .264 instead of a .284 140 grain Nosler Partition (for all intents the same bullet) has near perfect results, Why? Hers was traveling at about 2600 fps and the amount of blood shot meat would have fit in a small paper cup.

SO a bullet almost twice as big, but going 2/3 as fast, ended up doing a better job. To me the job is just not killing the animal, but killing it fast and not shredding the meat, killing it from all REASONABLE angles and yet not beating up the hunter so bad he ends up pulling the shot from fear of the recoil. The same bullet fired at a much more modest velocity punches a clean hole in, shreds the heart & lungs, and plows on out the far side, but leave far less "collateral damage."

Now in the friends defense, he had used the gun for several years in Missouri hunting big dear, but having to shoot from a deer stand across several hundred acre rice paddys in the bootheel near Dudley, for that his rifle and load choice are just about ideal. That load and rifle would work just as well on nervous muley's and even antelope who knew how far a rifle seemed to shoot.

Cast and blast, I commend you on your success and will not doubt you, but those 110's are the least desirable round when it comes to deer hunting. I have seen 125's that have glanced of the head of a dear, knocking the deer cold, but definitely not killing the animal. You want fun, flip a ko'd deer on its back and try to start gutting it when it decides to wake up and start kicking the poop out of you. I was there and it was not fun for about 20 seconds. I have seen the aforementioned 125 hit a deer from the front quarter, that basically just followed the shape of the shoulderblade and despite blowing a pound or two of meat off the deer, the animal was able to take off running and nearly got away, only it running past another hunter who finished it off for us, kept us from losing a seriously but not immediately mortally wounded deer.

A 140 or 158 soft point is just a much better choice for deer.

August 30, 2006, 02:06 PM
Well-put GTF.

Art Eatman
August 30, 2006, 04:38 PM
Well, there's killing and then there's killing clean. Dangfino. I guess folks just put the crosshairs "somewhere in the brown" and hope something good happens.

I pick out a particular place on the deer that I want to hit. I've already proven at the benchrest that the rifle will hit a gnat's wing joint. That's over and done with. I've practiced on targets from hasty rests and from offhand, so I know my limits.

But I've also learned where on Bambi the eating meat ain't, and I try to miss the good stuff. Seems simple to me. :)

Sure, sometimes, all you have is a quick glimpse and there's no time to actually plan a shot. You pretty much have to take a snap shot. About all you can do then is quit worrying about eating shoulders, I guess. Priorities and all that.